So many college graduates in North Carolina and around the country are setting out to establish careers and businesses. And this time of year always makes me recall how so many grads get bad advice. During my final year of orthodontic residency, my fellow classmates and I had to meet with an advisor who was supposed to give us guidance on how to succeed as a dentist in the real world. I remember that meeting very clearly, as it would shape the way I formed my practice and ultimately my entire career.
My advisor gave me three distinct dos and don’ts: don’t relocate and start an office in a city I’d never lived in before; don’t work with my wife (who was also a dentist and finishing her pediatric residency); and, do take general dentists out for lunch to build relationships and referrals.
I remember this advice being unsettling at the time because I had already planned to move to San Diego, a city I had never lived in before. I was also wanting to start an oral health business with my wife. And I found that long lunches with fellow dentists, who had already established relationships with other specialists, to be cumbersome and unfruitful. I hadn’t even left dental school yet, but if my advisor had any say, his educated guess would’ve been I was destined to fail.
Twenty-five years later, I am thankful to be part of a thriving enterprise in San Diego that I run with my wife. We now have seven oral health locations with more on the way, far exceeding what my advisor ever imagined. Why do I share this story? Because if I had taken advice from the “expert”, I wouldn’t have figured out my own path, and I certainly wouldn’t have been in the position I am in now. So, my advice to you is, sometimes you have to create your own path and stop listening to the experts.
We are given advice all the time, whether it’s solicited or not. We’re told what schools to go to, what to study, what to do, how to do it – and if we do all these things, according to the experts, we will become successful. And this is where I beg to differ. My take is, if we follow all the advice and do all the things everyone does – it will make us ordinary. To be extraordinary, you must watch what everyone is doing and do it differently and better.
Think about some of the biggest visionaries of our times – Elon Musk, Oprah, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs – none of these individuals got to where they are by following the footsteps of everyone else. Their journeys upended most of the traditional thought, and they changed the playing field because of it.
When I was starting out, I heard a lot about what to do to be in the “norm.” Norm is short for normal. There is nothing wrong with being normal or average if that’s what you want, but if you want to excel, you need to be extraordinary and do things differently. No one makes history by being like everyone else. You don’t change the world by being average. So, no matter what field you plan to enter into, my advice to graduates is don’t be afraid to blaze your own path and create your own set of rules. At the very least, you’ll have a new set of advice to give the next person about your own discovered dos and don’ts.
Dr. Kami Hoss has recently been published as an expert on business leadership, the pandemic, and parenting in Chief Executive, Forbes, Street Fight, Pregnancy & Newborns, Parents, Dentistry Today, San Diego Union-Tribune, Omaha World-Herald, and others. He is also on the board of counselors at UCLA School of Dentistry.
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